New Zealand’s compliance with drinking water standards is poor compared to the UK and European countries, and an independent regulator would assist in improving water quality, the Havelock North water inquiry heard today.

The final stage of hearings into the state of New Zealand’s drinking water regime resumed yesterday and turned to considering whether creating one, independent water regulator that had ensuring drinking water safety as its sole function would improve current issues with water quality.

International drinking water expert Colin Fricker, who was one of panel of five drinking water experts, talked about what he had seen overseas.

Where there was an independent regulator, featuring inspectors with the ability to prosecute, compliance was better, he said.

This was the case in the UK, which had a drinking water inspectorate, and as a result some of the best compliance levels in the world.

In New Zealand, transgressions of water quality were 10 times that seen in the UK, which was troubling, he added.

“It’s a clear indication that the microbiological quality of water in New Zealand is worse than the UK and other European countries.

“It could be improved dramatically with relatively simple improvements in processes.”

Part of that would be the creation of an independent regulator, whose sole task was to ensure water suppliers met drinking water standards.

The panel agreed it was important that such an entity was independent from political influence.

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